I left the UK by car on Sunday August 21, crossed the channel by ferry and arrived early morning at the trailhead - where two camper vans had parked up for the night.
As it was still very early, I decided to recline my seat and get some rest only to be woken by the sweltering heat a few hours later caused by the sun beating down on the car. Time to get ready for the first three summits in the Vosges.
I won’t include a summit by summit write-up, but will include some pictures from each day’s activating, with some comments where relevant.
Whilst none of the summits I attempted are particularly difficult - for some you can actually drive into the AZ - here are some of my observations, particularly compared to activating in G/GW.
- Many of the summits are in woodland; some have great views, but for many, you are surrounded by trees.
- This makes maintaining a GPS lock problematic at times.
- The ascent for some summits is steep on loose soil with a layer of dead leaves, making walking up as slippery as mud.
- I had many followers of the flying kind. On some summits I had to put on a thin long sleeved hoody to keep the flies off me
- For 80% of the activations, I could use a (summit) post, fallen tree, tree stump or other item to fasten my pole to. On a few occasions I used the Sotabeams Mini Pole Stake Kit. (I never had a deploy any guying rings/guy lines on any of the activations
- Storms have also devastated the forests in the Vosges with many uprooted trees lying around.
- Rural communities continue to get ready for winter with stockpiling wood for heating.
- Several summits have ski-lifts (which were not working of course). You could imagine the place in winter.
I used the following equipment for all my activations:
- Transceiver: Lab599 Discovery TX-500
- Battery: Zippy LifePo 4200 mAh
- Pole: Lakeside-1 Travel 600
- Antenna: Sotabeams 40/20 linked dipole
- Logbook: Rite in the rain 5x3
- GPS: Garmin GPSMap 62s
- Sitmat: WWAGO
Backup (in backpack, not used) in 8x7x2” pouch containing):
- HyEndFed EFHW QRP antenna (40/20/10m) 25W
- Coax: RG174 (5m & 10m lengths)
- 40m & 20m dipole
- Spare fuses.
- Yaesu FT-2DR with Diamond RH7700
Backup (in car, not used):
- Transceiver: Elecraft KX3
- Poles: Sotabeams Tactical Mini 6m & Compact 10m Travel Mast
- Battery: Zippy 8400 maH
- Elecraft T1 Antenna Tuner
- OCF multiband dipole
I charged my 4200 mAh battery each evening with a Turnigy Accucel-6
Total distance travelled by car (door-to-door): 1,900 miles
Total distance walked: 80 miles (128km)
Total QSOs (all SSB): 459
- Total S2S: 29
Total Points: 374
- FL/VO: 358 (36 summits)
- LX: 4 (1 summit)
- ON: 12 (2 summits)
Items lost: 2 Sotabeams Aluminium Alloy pegs
Day 1 (Aug 22): FL/VO-023, FL/VO-090, FL/VO-092, FL/VO-019, FL/VO-069, FL/VO-016
The first 3 summits can be reached from the same parking place. There is not much room, but a bench allows to easy pole fastening. FL/VO-019 is a ‘drive-on’ summit and the blurry photo taken on FL/VO-016 is a result of the huge amount of flies preventing the camera from focussing on the far distance.
Day 2 (Aug 23): FL/VO-031, FL/VO-089, FL/VO-029, FL/VO-020, FL/VO-014, FL/VO-003 , FL/VO-021
More woodland activations today. I decided to activate FL/VO-021 late in the day as this can be a popular location and there isn’t much room at the summit.
Day 3 (Aug 24): FL/VO-002, FL/VO-083, FL/VO-170, FL/VO-080, FL/VO-084, FL/VO-012
I was asked to leave FL/VO-002. I decided to activate first thing as I read this is a popular place and set up at the far end, so not to create any obstruction. There was only one other person on the summit. During the activation I could see a person approaching from the corner of my eye. When I looked up, I noticed someone standing in a ‘power stance’ with both hands on his hips, one foot a bit in front of the other frowning at me. He was wearing a Hohneck restaurant T-shirt and told me to pack up as this was private property and a protected location. (Not sure how he defined it, but understood it to be a protected location of natural beauty). I asked the chasers to stand-by and called after him, apologised and asked whether I could operate further down. He waved his arms and stated that it was not allowed anywhere.
I wondered how he found out I was there, but noticed a security camera at the apex of the restaurant roof when I walked back. I since found out that there may be a sign stating that amateur radio operating is not allowed, but did not see the sign (which may well have been there).
Day 4 (Aug 25): FL/VO-001, FL/VO-078, FL/VO-079, FL/VO-081, FL/VO-082, FL/VO-172
This was a glorious day weather wise with most summits in the open.
Day 5 (Aug 26): FL/VO-018, FL/VO-087, FL/VO-008, FL/VO-177, FL/VO-010
When I was setting up on FL/VO-018, I noticed a cyclist appearing. He stopped and seemed very interested in what I was doing. I explained SOTA, showed him the equipment I was using and demonstrated by calling a FF ON station. He kept repeating ‘Oscar November’, repeating part of the callsigns. Turns out he used to be a member of the ‘Chasseurs Alpins’ trekking in the mountains in winter in white camouflage and explained the comms equipment was huge compared to my TX-500. he took some pictures, we shook hands and he moved on and I started my activation.
The view from FL/VO-177 was fabulous. Could have sat there for hours, but these summits don’t activate themselves…
Day 6 (Aug 27): FL/VO-009, FL/VO-005, FL/VO-095, FL/VO-017, FL/VO-091, FL/VO-007
The plastic spacer broke on one of the links of the dipole, so had to perform some repairs. I tried to get closer to the fence at FL/VO-009, but the sign seemed to indicate that either snakes or spikes were present in the undergrowth so decided not to attempt to get to higher ground. Since this location was not in the AZ, I walked back into the open field at higher ground well within the AZ.
The last activation FL/VO-007 was performed in the dark. As I was about to make my ascent, a Dutch couple were setting up their tent and asked me whether I was joining the rave. They explained that they had hoped to camp between Le grand Brezouard and Le Petit Brezourd, but that a rave was taking place there. As I reached the summit, I could hear the generator and the thumping bass. I made 8 contacts, took the station down and made my way back to the car.
As I wanted to avoid a repeat of having to pay another 50+ Euros on tolls driving west to make my way back to Calais, I decided to drive through Luxembourg & Belgium instead and pick up 3 more summits along the way.
I managed to successfully activate LX/LX-001, ON/ON-004 and ON/ON-006; the latter two being drive-on summits and the one in LX requiring only a very small walk.
As always, many thanks to all the 158 chasers who took the effort to answer my CQ calls.